Taiwan: Media leaders discuss press freedoms

Palestinian journalists hold a stretcher carrying a camera and bearing a portrait of Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana during protest in the West Bank city of Ramallah against his killing in the Gaza Strip on April, 20, 2008. The International Press Institute, a media watchdog, condemned the killing.
Abbas Momani

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The fight for press freedom around the world has never felt more urgent.

The number of journalists killed, detained, threatened, harassed, jailed, sued and silenced while doing their work continues at a torrid pace. This year there were a total of 82 journalists killed so far, and all 82 of the names were scrolled across a black screen during a moment of silence that opened the International Press Institute World Congress here on Sunday.

This year the list of the fallen included many journalists covering the Arab Spring. One of them, South African photojournalist Anton Hammerl, was killed April 5 when Libyan troops closed in on him along with GlobalPost's James Foley and two other journalists. They had all been traveling and working together in the intense days at the height of the armed uprising against the Libyan regime. Hammerl was shot and killed by Libyan soldiers of the now-deposed government and Foley and two colleagues were taken at gunpoint and detained for 45 days before they were released.

Most of the names on that somber scroll are largely unknown outside their own, under-reported corners of the world in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Some of the names are more recognizable, such as the internationally acclaimed photographer and innovative journalist Tim Hetherington who was killed in Libya earlier this year. Tim was a great colleague who I knew from the field and will always wish for time to have gotten to know him better.

All of those named were heroic and all of them deserve to be recognized, particularly by those of us in the American media who too often whine about an economic downturn in our industry and too often forget about great journalists who have risked it all to do courageous reporting every day of the week in places like Sri Lanka, Colombia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

IPI not only honors the fallen, but also those who are very much alive and kicking.

(To read the full dispatch, click here.)